Pan/Tilt Camera Mount – Very Common Yet Very Useful

Hello Everyone

I know its been some time since I last posted any content. But here I am, this post is gonna be really interesting for everyone ranging from beginners to professional photographers. Pan/tilt camera mount is essentially a type of tripod head just like any other tripod head.

I have already written a detailed post on ball heads, check it out here. Ball heads and pan heads are the most common camera mounts you will come across. Many of you are already familiar with pan/tilt head. For those of you newbies, stay put for the next 8-10 minutes and you will have a reasonably fair idea about it.

PAN/TILT HEADS – WHO IS IT FOR?

Well, let me start by explaining what does a pan/tilt head do. So all right, as the name suggests this particular mount is a perfect tool for panning be it sideways or up/down. You cannot simply reproduce the same results from any other way. These are specifically designed to give you a free flowing pan. Tilting is just rotating your camera along its sides.

3-Way Pan/Tilt Head
Photo by Petri Krohn via Wikimedia Commons, licensed under Creative Commons

These are extremely common in the world of photography and if you have ever bought a tripod, it probably came with it. Pan heads are great, some people like to use only pan heads because of its precision of movement. But having said all this, WHO IS THIS FOR? To answer this question, I need you to ask yourself the following questions.

Are you interested in making panoramas?

Are you into capturing panning images (like photographing race cars, etc)?

Are you planning on making films, etc?

If the answer to any one of the above questions is yes, then I strongly recommend that you buy yourself a good pan head. Now, before you get to excited about buying another piece of equipment, let me mention some pros and cons of a pan head.

PROS:

  • Extreme precision
  • Very easy to operate
  • Sturdy as an Oak
  • Relatively cheap.

CONS:

  • Very bulky and heavy
  • Can take up a lot of time to set up/adjust

Among all the other things, the only drawback of a pan/tilt head is it can really take a lot of time to adjust. You will need to spend a considerable amount of time practicing and getting used to the screws. But on the positive side, it will help you to stop and compose a shot perfectly rather than clicking away like a maniac!

KINDS OF PAN/TILT HEADS

Let’s get to the next section here, kinds of pan/tilt heads. Frankly there are not a lot of types of these heads just a couple or so. But each one is works basically as the other except for some extra features. The reason, I want to include this section is so that you can make a well-informed decision before spending your money.

3-WAY PAN/TILT HEADS

Among all the other types, the 3-way pan/tilt head is the most common. The 3 stands for the 3-axes about which this head can rotate your camera. If you know a bit about mechanics, you might be familiar with roll, pitch and yaw. If not no problem, it will be clear with this diagram.

Photo by Auawise via Wikimedia Commons, licensed under Creative Commons

Assume your camera to be this plane, so a 3-way head allows you to move thew camera along these three axes. It offers excellent flexibility and precision. You can adjust one screw (move your camera in one direction) and keep the other knob screwed in place.

 

 

2-WAY PAN HEADS
By now you might have guessed what does it do. It moves your camera only along 2-axes that is sideways and up/down. There is no tilt motion that means you won’t be able to take shots in portrait mode. 2-way heads are mostly used in film making because there isn’t much use of portrait mode of shooting.

FLUID HEADS

Although fluid heads are different from pan/tilt heads in their mechanisms but there function remains the same. Pan heads are comparatively jerky and not as smooth as a fluid head when it comes to panning. This is because in a pan head solid parts grind over each other which creates friction which leads to erratic motions.

Photo by Mk2010 via Wikimedia Commons, licensed under Creative Commons

On the other hand, a fluid head uses a principle called dampening. With the fluid mechanism it drastically reduces those jerks by absorbing them just as a shock absorber. You might face some resistance in movement from the head itself! Also, beware of online sites that say fluid type head or fluid like head! These are simple pan heads with greased parts. Don’t waste your money on them.

MOTORIZED PAN/TILT HEAD

To be honest, these are videography heads. You won’t need them for photography. They are expensive and impractical to use in photo shoots. But just for the sake of your information, these are driven by a set of motors to obtain the pan. Some great footage can be captured with this head due to its flawless motion.

HOW TO USE ONE?

Here comes the interesting part, now that your are interested in pan/tilt heads, I’m gonna let you in on some photography techniques that you can do using a pan/tilt head. Before you head out, I highly recommend that you learn atleast the basics of Adobe Lightroom. If you want to learn it in-depth, check this link out!. It is a very exhaustive course on Lightroom and it is pretty much everything you need to know about the tool.

Back to point, the first technique which I will be discussing is of course panning. Panning is moving your camera along with the subject and taking a shot. Keep the camera on autofocus continuous mode so that it tracks the subject it moves around the frame. Lock the autofocus on the subject and shoot. Make sure your aperture is f/11 or f/16 (very small) and your shutter speed is 1/10 sec, 1/15sec, etc. The idea is for as long as the shutter remains open, the camera should move along with the subject in focus! Take a moment and read it again.

Here are some sample images…

Next up is taking panoramas, I believe that pan/tilt heads make the best panoramas. Making a panorama is a little detailed process, so I’m gonna condense it so that you get an overview of what’s going on.

Well to make a panorama, you must have an ultra wide scenery like a big beautiful bridge or a mountain range, etc. Next, mount your camera on a tripod in portrait orientation, focus on the subject and switch it to manual focus. Adjust the exposure and remember not to change those settings throughout the process. We will take a maximum of 5 or 6 shots to cover the whole frame(pan the camera in between each shot). Make sure that every frame has atleast 20% of data from the previous image otherwise you will run into issues while stitching them in lightroom and photoshop. Here is an example!

I RECOMMEND…

Having a pan/tilt head in your toolbox is always a plus. Much like ball heads pan heads have their own importance. Again, the market is filled with thousands of products to choose from. Pan heads come relatively cheap, starting from $20!. But you wouldn’t wanna go that way.

I recommend Manfrotto 410 3-Way Geared Pan-Head. It is an excellent tripod head, very professional and super convenient to use.

Specs:

Max Load : 11lb/5kg

Material : High quality Aluminum

360 degree panning

+30 to -90 and -30 to +90 tilt angles

Weighs 2.7lb/1.2 kg

Has a bubble level

Priced at around $235, it is a very healthy investment. If you are on a budget look out for Manfrotto X-Pro 3-Way Pan Head. It is also an excellent tripod head and will get away with most of the tasks. It is priced sweetly at $107 and is a great value for money.

Whether you buy these or not, keep one thing in mind that these pieces of equipment are built to last a long long time. Just make sure to use them properly and maintain them.

Conclusion

Tripod and tripod accessories constitute a large segment of photography industry. Knowing which tool to use and when makes a good professional. Pan/tilt head must be an option in your kit along with the other heads. Sometimes, people restrict themselves only to these heads because of their various pros. But then, it depends on person to person. Overall is a very frequently used equipment and a great learning tool for beginners.

I hope you enjoyed reading this post. I wanted to write this post on pan/tilt camera mount to complement my other post on ball heads. For any queries or questions, please leave them below in the comments section and I’ll be happy to answer them.

Shashwat

Founder

Tripods For All

 

26 thoughts on “Pan/Tilt Camera Mount – Very Common Yet Very Useful”

  1. Hi Shashwat

    I followed a friend of mine who is a photographer when he went to capture some footage of some animals in the wild. To be frank, before then, I didn’t know anything about photography, panorama and professional videography. I was just used to using my phone to snap which is just straight forward and easy. It was on that trip that I was told more about the tripod, the 2-way and 3-way tilt head. Reading your post just reminded me of that adventure 

  2. I absolutely love what I read in this insightful article because it is full of great information. This is fascinating and interesting to me.I still found it interesting to learn about photography and the likes. 

    This article has changed my thought and I found joy in handling  camera. Thanks for this review. Best regards 

  3. I worked at the front desk of a photography and video recording company and they had amazingly beautiful tripods with great pan/tilt heads. I wasn’t really interested in the technical aspect so I never got the specs, I just know that they talked about these heads and how they use them to capture some of the panaromic pictures that are requested from clients. 

    I also remember some clients gushing over some of our photography crew’s recommendations ,like the Manfrotto 410 3-Way Geared Pan-Head. They usually come back to say it was worth it. Theybswore on its usefulness and the ones who already had it but didn’t understand how to apply it were satisfied after being coached a few hours.

  4. I got into photography for a little bit but it wasn’t really my thing. What was my thing however was videography and I can attest to how valuable and important a tripod is for capturing those difficult shots, or just holding your camera steady. They are very sturdy and worth having if anyone plans on doing anything along those lines of photography and cinematography. Also, I like the hand held ones as well. I think if you look for an “octopus tripod” they come up but I’m not sure because I purchased mine quite a while ago. Regardless, great article for anyone looking for the benefits and/or looking to just outright purchase a tripod. 

  5. Great Content and Information!

    What a concise and thorough article. I found the post very detailed and Informative. So so many useful tips and tricks all on one page! Wonderful! I bookmarked to look further. I have heard about pantilt camera but I had never tasted its benefit this much. Obviously its pros outweighs its cons which makes it much more recommendable. Thanks for the eye opener. I am purchasing mine right away

  6. Hi Shashwat, 

    I love photography, although I’ve not started a career in it yet, I have big dreams of going into it and being the best in the photography world. 

    And, I’m making baby steps by gathering information, to make me the best in my field, when I begin in essence. 

    Your article on PAN/TILT HEADS is much needed for me, since I’m interested in photographing fast moving objects like racing cars and motorbikes. 

  7. Hi,

    Thank you for writing a great informative article about Pan/tilt camera mount. I like the pan/ tilt head feature of this special tripod. Sometimes we need panoramas images for different purposes. Though it needs time to set up, this is one of the best tripod ever I have found. One of my best friends is a photographer and he wants to buy a tripod. I believe that this article is very helpful for him. I am going to share this article with him. Thank you for writing this helpful post.

  8. Hello,

    I gained a lot from this insightful post, I was once into Photography with basic of Adobe lightroom and I love this feature on the pan/tilt head. I quite know the usefulness and the importance of using it for a shoot. The outcome of the shoots are always better and cool. Thanks for the review.

  9. Thanks for writing this great informative and educative article about Pan tilt camera mount. I don’t really know much about photography but I have a friend I can refer to buy one of these. I believe that this article is very helpful for him. I am going to share this article with him. Thank you for writing this helpful post.

  10. No doubt this article is concise and self explanatory. I read your previous post on Ball heads and I also left a comment. I’ve not really used this pan/tilt camera mount. I have a question, if you already have the ball head is there any need to purchase this? Because I just bought a ball head for my tripod.

    1.  It sure is a great option to have it in your bag. But if you are an amateur or a beginner who is just getting started or does photography casually, its better to stick with one head.

      Hope I answered your query.

  11. Wow! Thanks for sharing this wonderful review on pan tilt camera mount, I don’t really know much about photography but I do have passion for it. This review is really helpful I would share it with my friend who is a photographer and very sure he will give it a thought and try buying one.

  12. Pan/Tilt camera Mount are very useful type of tripod heads for professional photographers.  It allows free flowing movement and rotating cameras along it’s sides. Used to capture panning images, it makes it fits well to be used to capture car racing, making films. It has high level of precision and also cheap highly recommended for both professional photographer and begginners. Nice content

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